Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sharing: Then & Now

In a time when the world was less digital, we shared real things around. You could tell a well-loved book from a freshly-printed one. The yellowing in the paper, the cracks in the spine, and the dog-eared pages (perish the thought!) were all dead giveaways.

These days, sharing digitally, books aren't handed from person to person. When you give your friend a PDF, you're not even giving it away. You're giving them a clone of it - perfectly preserved bit-for-bit identical.

The original text is as-intended, but in doing so, we lose out on the tiny details. You won't find grains of sand in the pages reminding you of that lazy trip to the beach you took last summer. The tears you wept when reading a particularly-touching passage don't stain your pages. And certainly no heartfelt inscription from your best friend blemishes pristine inside cover. From the first reading to the thousandth, everything is exactly the same.

But sometimes, even digitally, there are signs of wear and tear.

You see them in your email from a mile away. FW:FW:RE:RE:FW:FW:RE:haha this is so funny!

You see them in videos. Whether it be from someone using their phone to take a Snapchat (or whatever the kids these days are up to) of their TV or a square aspect-ratio video letting you know it came from Instagram (from back in the day).

You see them in images, too. Small images get blown up, leaving their imperfections for the world to see. JPEG compression tortures black and white diagrams into producing greys.

So, yeah, basically I wrote this post because I saw a stupidly-compressed text-as-image post on Twitter and it made me kind of mad... and then it made me think.

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